The KETTLING at The Electric Arcade

If you want your faith in humanity restored here’s the prescription! Go see The KETTLING in Brighton Fringe at theatre director / teacher Nicola Hayden’s lovely new seafront venue The Electric Arcade, a hub for young talent and great coffee too!

In The Kettling the actors have enough energy to power the universe (if only they were allowed to), “the young in one another’s sweet arms, free from hate and harm, filled with grace and charm, cuddled and keeping warm, making me feel reborn“ (Eminemmylou) or as Sheryl Crow put it “love is all there is.” I walked out inspired!

And yet this 50-minute explosion of music and riotous attitude, this play in old theatre parlance is as far away from old theatre as Andrea Dunbar’s works or Bill Forsyth’s films – That Sinking Feeling.

The Kettling is a metaphor for a world down upside, where cold cruelty trumps hot love, and the young and peaceful who JUST want a safer, cleaner, more equal world are treated JUST as criminals and penned in by the old state.

The Kettling cast at Electric Arcade

Hannah Norton as Jolene has all the best comedy lines the dramatist Katherine Manners wrote and delivers them like the best stand up EVER. Ava Pavlo-Ruffell as Hope has the commitment of the bravest suffragette coupled with the vulnerability of every would-be lover. Elise Donoghue as Kelly displays necessary naivety – aghast at the militarised. Annabel Burton as Maisie is the perfect 21st century hippy and Fin Royle, Oscar Piatt and Jay Kavanagh show masculinity at its best – and worst. Elise Read, Maddi Jabir, Nancy Logan and Otis Joi complete the ensemble and I’ve named all because this is a team performance. In my humble critic’s view every member of the chorus line deserve their name in lights and heh that cues up nicely Ellie Short and Ana Thompson’s light and sound and the direction by Conor Baum all of which take us right there to the kettled and the kettledrums and the kettlers’ drums of war. First performed a few years ago pre pandemic, pre-European war and pre Greta’s campaigning this is zeitgeist theatre and a real triumph for Hungry Wolf Visionary Youth Theatre Company producer and artistic director respectively Rebekah Whiteley and Melody Roche.

In The Kettling the ensemble argue, they are divided on tactics, they debate Rosa Parks civil rights and the Tiananmen Square “Tank Man” (allegedly Wang Weilin). Is non-violence enough? Even if THEY’RE violent do WE have to be?  They perform for their watching kettlers and for us. They are not just tattoo victims.

There’s grief and joy in equal measure in this fast and furious play for today and they have a one-word answer if you’re looking for one. Courage!

The Kettling is at The Electric Arcade on 21 and 22 May. Go!

Find tickets for The Kettling here.

Words by Bill Smith

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